This week Michael Edgar launched a 2-part series on the church -- what it is, what it does, and how we can take part in it. This week, Michael focused on the universal church -- Church-with-a-capital-c -- that makes up the whole body of Christ. The Nicene Creed says that there is "one holy, catholic, apostolic church." Using this definition as the foundation for the lesson, Michael walked us through each of these four parts.
The Church is one
No matter how great our denominational differences, the Church as a whole is meant to be one church. That means that we are united in Christ. There is a theological reality here, demonstrated in Ephesians 2:19 -- in Christ, we are already united as members of God's household. But there is also a practical imperative for our lives. We should seek unity and peace, not just within our local church, but among other Christians as well. The foundation of such unity is love.
The Church is holy
Ephesians 2:21-22 describes the church as a "holy temple of the Lord." As the Lord's dwelling place, the church is set apart and distinct from the world. Again, there is a theological truth: that members of Christ's body have been cleansed by Christ's blood and are holy and blameless in His sight -- and a practical reality: our lives should be marked by holiness. Christ will accomplish our cleansing by His power. Christ will also empower us to conduct ourselves in light of His holiness through confession of sin, conforming to God's will and way, and commitment to right belief and right practice.
The Church is catholic
The word "catholic" here does not mean "Roman Catholic." Rather, it means universal, whole, and wholly true. The Church's catholicity refers to both the fundamental beliefs that unite us and to the boundlessness of the Church. If we believe Christianity is true, we believe it is true for all times in all places and for all peoples. Denominational differences don't matter here; what matters is Christ.
The Church is apostolic
Finally, the Church is based on the teachings of the apostles. The apostles knew Jesus personally, and we believe because of their testimony, which has been handed down from generation to generation. The Church is apostolic because it can trace its beliefs back to those apostles who walked and talked with Jesus.
What "big-C-Church" means for the "little-c-church"
Our role in the universal church should affect our behavior in our local church. As one church, we should start seeking unity and peace within our own congregations. As a holy church, we should confess and repent as we live in a manner pleasing to God. As a catholic church, we should ignore divisive differences and focus on the orthodox beliefs that unite us. And as an apostolic church we should rest our faith and hope on God's word, spoken through prophets and apostles.
Questions to Consider:
- Do I let denominational differences hinder my ability to love Christians outside of my circle?
- What fundamentals of faith unite all Christians?
- How can I pursue unity and peace in practical ways within my local church and among other Christians?
- Does my life look set-apart and different from lives of non-Christians? Does my church reflect God's holiness or does it reflect the ways of the world?